Mohill's Darren McLoughlin is tackled by two Castlebar players during the AIB Connacht Club SFC. Photo by Willie Donnellan
It was our most competitive senior club championship for years and Mohill carried into Connacht the form that saw them claim the Leitrim title.
Yes, they fell short against Castlebar in the end but they delivered a performance that every future Leitrim champion should seek to emulate.
They showed that attitude counts most on the field of play. They showed that when viewing players on the team sheet, the perceived gaps can be narrowed if not nullified by a solid game plan, boundless energy and collective belief.
They ignored the fear of losing that holds so many teams back. They didn’t give their opponents a 10 point lead and then throw caution to the wind when it was too late …. a classic Leitrim ploy of late. They took the game to the opposition from the off and as a result put themselves in with a fighting chance as the match entered the final quarter.
I’m not celebrating a defeat. Rather, I’m enjoying the fact that the best team in Leitrim now knows that the gap between them and the best in Connacht isn’t insurmountable.
If they work incessantly over the coming 12 months, their young team can narrow the gap further. Winning Leitrim should be considered a step towards more ambitious goals for Mohill next season.
There is an incredible amount of poor-mouthing happening at the moment about the state of our county team. For one I am sick of hearing it. A county like Leitrim depends on positivity mixed with a great deal of reality. At present, we have the youngest and most inexperienced squad I recall representing the county since the 1990s.
In that group are some of the most exciting players I have seen compete at club level in the county. If they are allowed the time and space necessary to develop from young, slight, inexperienced, young men into well-conditioned, championship-hardened, men-of-experience, they can be moulded into a team capable of really competing.
The management team have a critical role to play in this long-term project. While they need to try to establish early progress so enthusiasm and enjoyment is maintained they must also foster conviction and patience allowing for learning to be taken from the inevitable setbacks that the journey will bring.
They must ensure that their very young guns aren’t thrown too soon into the deep end …..that their bodies and minds are offered the opportunity to thrive rather than burnout as a result of too much too soon.
They must equally ensure that some of the older heads are persuaded to remain involved.
Their steadying presence will be essential; their experience invaluable; their perspective valued. They need to understand that while they may not be playing as significant role on the field in every game their contribution is vital.
Even the conundrum of the county champions must be carefully considered. The Mohill men have just finished a very long season. When should they return to county training? Is more to be gained from giving their more senior players a few weeks to rediscover their hunger?
Many factors feed into such decisions, none more so than how the players themselves are feeling. This is a poker game in some ways and unfortunately Leitrim is playing with a reduced hand. Therefore, everyone with even the slightest part to contribute must be encouraged to do so.
So, the next time you speak to any audience remember that your words carry weight. You carry the power to bring with you either negativity or positivity.
Which one will it be?
If you ask the question of a young lad in your club ‘why would you commit your life to the county side right now?’ you risk dissuading the next Mickey or Seamus Quinn from contributing to their county in a manner available to only the lucky few.
Instead, have faith in their potential, and in the wonder that comes from believing in something without guarantees; and the rewards that come from contributing to something greater than oneself. Mol an oige agus tiocfaidh sí.